Although bosses got a sort of mea culpa from Jeremy Clarkson on Sunday, the BBC isn’t taking any chances with giving the suspended Top Gear host a sanctioned pulpit. As his future with the corporation remains uncertain, it has shelved live events he was due to attend on March 27 and 28 in Norway. The decision to postpone comes two weeks following a “fracas” Clarkson had with a producer that led to his suspension from the network. It also follows an obscenity-filled tirade Clarkson launched against BBC bosses at a charity auction last Thursday. In his Sunday Times column yesterday, Clarkson wrote that the rant “was all meant in jest and anyway it worked. By being brief and controversial and a bit sweary I woke the room up and the auction prize I was offering — one last lap of the Top Gear test track — raised £100,000.”
Still, he won’t get the chance to be controversial in Norway this weekend. The Top Gear Live tour takes the motoring program on the road for stadium shows, track-based festivals and stand-alone stunts; Clarkson has been present at each one since they began. Reports suggest about 20,000 people had purchased tickets to the upcoming shows at costs ranging from £45-£100 per. A BBC statement provided to Deadline reads:
“Top Gear Live regrets to inform ticket holders for next week’s shows in Stavanger, Norway that we will be postponing all 4 performances, with rescheduled dates for later this year to be confirmed within the next fortnight. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this will cause fans and we will endeavour to contact all ticket holders directly to inform them of the change of dates. At present, all other Top Gear Live dates will run as scheduled.”
The event’s website is still listing dates for Belfast, Sheffield and London later this year.
As for Top Gear the TV show, it has not aired since the incident. BBC Two ran a repeat of a documentary about the Royal Air Force’s aerobatics team on Sunday March 15 which resulted in a drop of about 4M viewers compared to what Top Gear usually draws. Last night, BBC Two began airing three-part travel series Caribbean With Simon Reeve. It averaged 2.1M viewers for a 9.2 share in the overnights. Top Gear generally averages 5M+ viewers.
A report on the “fracas”, overseen by BBC Scotland’s Ken MacQuarrie, will be given to BBC Director General Tony Hall this week, although no definitive timeline has been set. In the meantime, more than 1M people have signed a Change.org petition calling for Clarkson’s reinstatement.